jrandolph.jpgJohn Randolph, a Tony Award-winning character actor, died on Feb. 24 of natural causes. He was 88.
The New York City native was born Emanuel Hirsch Cohen, but when his mother remarried, he was renamed Mortimer. After attending City College of New York and studying drama with the Federal Theatre Project and Stella Adler, he legally changed his name to John Randolph. He served in the Army Air Forces during World War II, and married actress Sarah Cunningham between the matinee and evening performance of the Orson Welles-produced and directed play, “Native Son.” Cunningham died in 1986.
Randolph, who described himself as an “old radical,” first became politically active in the 1930s. He rallied for convicted spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and fought for the rights of veterans. He and his wife were both called before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1955, but they refused to testify.
Blacklisted for their beliefs, the couple founded the Ensemble Studio Theatre. Randolph also returned to the New York stage, appearing in the original productions of “The Sound of Music” and “Paint Your Wagon.” He also continued demonstrating for issues that mattered to him. During the 1960s, he marched with Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Randolph was never a household name, but after 60 years of entertaining, he certainly became a familiar face to American audiences. When he was once again allowed to work in Hollywood, he took on character parts in films like “Serpico,” “Frances” and “Prizzi’s Honor.”
In later years, he played Roseanne’s father in several episodes of the ABC sitcom “Roseanne,” and appeared as Tom Hanks’s grandfather in the 1998 film, “You’ve Got Mail.” Randolph also played the “Trotskyite, communist, left-wing grandfather” in Neil Simon’s play “Broadway Bound” — a role that earned him a Tony Award and a Drama Desk in 1987.
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